We learn from observation, but mostly we learn from our mistakes. That is where our trip to Alaska comes in. We’d been working hard and desparatly wanted to take a trip but didn’t have time to plan one. We also had airline miles to use or lose. Where could we fly that we’d always wanted to go with those miles? Alaska!
Hey, it’s very big state and we didn’t have a lot of ideas for exactly what to do – so why not find a guided trip and go where they took us? We saw a little ad in the back of a great magazine for an affordable 10-day camping trip. Perfect, we thought – until it wasn’t.
The group didn’t really jell, the guide and food were mediocre, the weather horrible. For 10 days’ vacation we had a lot of time to think about where we’d gone wrong and vowed not to repeat our mistakes.
We decided that for us, we would only take a guided trip for very specialized travel in the future, like a hiking trip in the Himalayas, a voyage to Antarctica, or a walking safari in Africa.
We get a great deal of enjoyment and satisfaction planning our own trips. Every detail is to our own specifications and every dollar is well spent. The longest trip we planned when our children were young was a 3-month trip spanning their entire school vacation. We exchanged houses in Denmark, Italy and France and our only travel costs were transportation.
Could we organize a serious birdwatching trip in Ecuador without booking a guided tour? After months of research online, we discovered Jane Lyons’ name on a list of recommended Ecuador birding guides which led us to a glorious stay at her Reserva Las Gralarias.
We enjoy spending our vacation hours outside and if we could order the perfect weather, we’d ask for sunny and warm with no rain. Why not choose the perfect conditions for your visits by looking at monthly average weather charts for your next destination? If we discover we’re traveling in is high season, so be it. We highly prioritize good weather for our trips.
Years ago we planned a walking trip to Tuscany with a group of family and friends. One couple had to bow out and instead took the trip on their own in the very early Spring. They saved a lot of money since it was the low season but knew it was a potentially cool and rainy time of year. They spent miserable days walking in pouring rain. The rest of us went in May based on projected perfect weather. Lovely! We felt the extra money we paid was well worth it.
Of course, if you plan to be inside museums and shops during your visit, who cares if it’s cool and rainy outside? Why not go in off-season for the savings?
For our travel outside the U.S., we have only rented a car six times. Our philosophy is to walk everywhere we can, and when we want to go further, take public transport. Oh, we can’t begin to describe the beauty of slowing down (way down) and taking in all the sights by means of walking.
While planning a trip for 6 friends to Turkey, we struggled with how to get from Selcuk, where we planned to visit Ephesus, to Bodrum on the southwest coast. As we looked into bus routes, we discovered many important archaeological sites between the two, so we asked our reliable innkeeper to arrange a van with driver to turn the 2.5 hour drive into a full day trip with stops at those important sites.
A rental car is an expensive drain on a travel budget, and we prefer to keep our travel “slow” when in-country.
Other travelers will have different opinions on guided tours, high season and rental cars. The important point is to learn what works well for you and to apply that to your future trip arrangements. What is your own “lesson learned” rule now applied to your travel planning?